Not being taken seriously is awful. It’s the most frustrating feeling, whether it’s your project group in school not listening to your ideas, or a boy asking you to name 50 of a band’s songs when you wear their t-shirt to prove you’re a real fan. THE WORST.

But often other people not taking you seriously can have more damaging repercussions than being bored out of your tree for 30 minutes at a party as a boy asks you to recite Radiohead lyrics. It can really knock your self-esteem, particularly if it’s a dig at a part of your identity you hold dear – or might still struggle with.

For a lot of people, our sexuality is a massive element of what makes us well, ‘us’. But all too frequently other people (friends, parents, the media) can make you feel invalidated and inauthentic when it comes to who you fancy. This is particularly the case when it comes to those of us who might not identify along the traditional binary of attraction. If you’re not straight, it’s ‘just a phase’, and if you are attracted to more than one gender, you’re obviously hopping aboard the ‘Queerness As A Trend’ bandwagon that we’ve all heard about.

How to deal

First off, if it’s just a phase – who cares? Exploring your sexuality is normal and healthy, and it’s never your fault that someone has stereotypical preconceived notions about who you are.

‘You’re just confused.’ Er, being a person alive in the WORLD is confusing. Confusion is an aspect of being human we all have to deal with, but having your feelings invalidated by an ignorant remark can leave you feeling embarrassed and like a fake. If you feel like you can engage with this person and tell them your feelings were hurt, by all means give it a shot, but it’s also not your duty to convince someone that your identity is worthwhile. A lot of people would class their sexuality as fluid and changeable, while other people feel very comfortable categorising themselves as one thing or another. Guess what? Everyone’s feelings are valid! I know, crazy right?

Secondly, people dismissing others identifying under the LGBTQI umbrella as a ‘trend’ is nasty and short-sighted.

LGBTQI individuals have a much higher risk of suffering from mental health issues, or being victims of prejudiced abuse because of how they identify. The American Department of Health and Human Services found that there are higher rates of depression and anxiety among lesbians and bisexual women, with bisexuals even more likely to experience mental health issues. A lot of the time ‘bi-erasure’ (ignoring, dismissing or pretending bisexuality doesn’t exist) can contribute to the anxiety for bisexual people, who feel like they have twice the amount to prove. So if someone ever implies you’re just pretending to reach some imaginary level of cool, they’re being ignorant of the fact that LGBTQI people have a harder time in a largely hetero and gender-normative world. Tell them that.

And remember…

That old chestnut, compulsory heterosexuality, is another reason people might brush off your feelings about who you’re attracted to. The world is structured so people are viewed as heterosexual by default, unless they can prove otherwise. This means that if you deviate from the so-called ‘norm’, you’re sometimes viewed with a little bit of suspicion. But thankfully, people seem to be becoming more open-minded and thoughtful in their responses to the multitudes of sexual identities and ways to define yourself (or not).

Ultimately, if you find yourself feeling less comfortable under a label and gravitate towards another one, that’s fine. ‘Finding yourself’ is kind of a myth anyway, as who you are is a continuous process, moulded by what you experience as you grow up. People who have a problem with it most likely have their own issues they’re projecting onto you. Sexuality isn’t as easy to compartmentalise as you might think, and it’s not up to you to constantly prove yourself to other people.

Look after yourself, and treat others with the same respect and kindness you deserve yourself. That’s all any of us really need to do.

@incogellen 

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Let’s just say the ‘D’ word that no one wants to talk about. No, not discharge, or diarrhoea, or double denim.

It’s death. Not a fun subject, but a significant one that no doubt a handful of pupils at your school – and maybe even you, lovely reader – have been affected by.

I was nine when my Mum died (breast cancer, in case you want to know – which of course you do, we all always want to know) and being the bereaved kid in school was really hard. Actually, it wasn’t hard. Hard was the death part. It was just super, super annoying.

I remember feeling like a celebrity whose nude photos had been leaked; a mix of embarrassment and strange popularity, the day I went back to school. Everyone stared and whispered. Teachers kept squeezing my shoulder, the kids in my class – including one who’d previously founded the Helena Hater Club (an annoyingly fabulous use of alliteration) – suddenly wanted to be on my team in rounders. A friend’s mother pulled me to one side to tell me that apparently my Mum was dancing in a meadow – a meadow – with my dead grandparents now.

But there was something that helped, and it wasn’t strangers telling me I was ‘brave’ or ‘strong’ because something happened to me that I had absolutely no control over – I was just getting up every day and putting one foot in front of the other, despite the fact that it felt like I was walking through sticky black treacle. That thing was my mates.

Here are the sad statistics; according to children’s charity Winston’s Wish, over 41,000 children in the UK are bereaved of a parent each year. That’s 100 every day. So, if that’s you, know this: you are not alone.

Death is the worst kind of goodbye, but it is inevitable, and if my experience taught me anything, it’s that there are some really great ways that friends can help. Grief feels like you’re stuck in one of those goody grabber claw machines, but instead of goodies you’re buried deep in the dark beneath bad thoughts and someone is playing a sad song on repeat. Friends are the claw that help get you the hell out – it might take a couple of goes, but eventually you will end up escaping.

How? For starters, friends can listen. Chances are, if someone is bereaved of a family member, they’ll be bearing the weight of enormous emotional support back at home. Friends can help relieve it – everyone needs to have a go at being the crying one. It’s healthy.

Patience is important too. The fact of the matter is death changes you. It just does. It might be a temporary change – your bereaved friend may not care about school for a while, or previously chilled friends might become anxious. They might even want to shut you out and be inside their own head for some time. Be patient while your friend works through that and let them know you’re ready to help if and when they want to ask for it.

Sensitivity – have it. Not too much, don’t treat your bereaved friend like a baby chick with a broken wing. Small things can sting though. I remember, a couple years later in secondary school, faking illness because we were learning family vocab in french and I just couldn’t deal with Madame Bernard asking us to repeat after her the french for “I live with my Mum”. Try to find out the date of their parent’s birthday, and remember the date that they died; it’s likely your friend will be having a bad time when it comes around each year.

Finally, bereavement will make a person crave normality like a packet of chocolate Hob Nobs on a bad period day. Make them laugh, distract them, remind them of the person that they were before this happened.

I won’t tell you that losing someone you love gets easier. Time can’t heal that, but you will get used to it. You’ll replace tears at the thought of them to laughter and a sense of comfort when retelling memories. It’s been 17 years since my Mum died and, cards on the table, I miss her just as much as I did when I was nine. But the shock has gone, which helps prevent the sense of loneliness, which helps you realise that you are not in this alone.

The dead parent club has many members. It’s a subscription none of us asked for, but we’ve got the badge and we wear it anyway. We’re puffy-eyed, determined and worth every second our mates spend standing at that claw machine.

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

1. Are they walking towards me?

2. Does my breath smell?

3. Why did I have a tuna sandwich for lunch?

4. Why did I have a tuna sandwich ever? Tuna is the kryptonite of romance.

5. My arms feel weird.

6. Should I cross them?

7. Or just leave them by my sides?

8. Oh my god, what do I normally do with my arms?! WHY IS THIS SO HARD.

9. What should I say?

10. “Hey!”? Nope. Too American.

11. “Hi”? Too simple.

12. “Howdy?” Wait, am I suddenly in a 50s Western film?

13. Maybe I’ll just nod. Nodding says, “I acknowledge you exist, but your presence doesn’t make me want to run away to Spain with you and tattoo your name on my bicep or anything.” Nodding is cool. Right?

14. Right?!

15. Oh my god, they’re coming! No, no no – they’re right here.

16. “G’day partner, do your arms ever feel weird?”

17. Nailed it.

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Image: Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging

We all know that bae has nothing on your BFF. I mean, the second ‘F’ literally stands for forever.

But sometimes, ‘forever’ doesn’t actually end up meaning forever. It might mean, ‘for high school’. It might mean, ‘for the summer’. It might mean, ‘until my crush realises they love me back and we spend the rest of our lives holding hands and gazing at each other while taking long walks along beaches’ (cheers for that one, Bryony).

When it comes to heartbreak, relationship breakups tend to get all the glory. There are gazillions of love songs and squazillions of books (what? Those could be real numbers) that deal with romantic heartbreak. But sometimes friendship breakups are the real arrows to your heart.

With romantic splits, people expect you to wallow. Everyone gives you a free pass if you are unable to get through a two minute conversation without weeping. You’re allowed to hole up in your room and refuse to eat anything of nutritional value, while concerned friends and family stroke your hair and tiptoe round bringing you cups of tea and letting you have the best biscuits.

But, when you break up with your BFF, everyone expects you to carry on as normal. To change that profile picture of the two of you, smiling with your arms wrapped around each other, without fuss. To ignore the eery silence of your phone, which no longer lights up every two minutes with a message from her. People expect you to be angry, not sad. To bitch and rage and plot revenge, not dissolve in a pile of tissues every time you smell her favourite body spray.

Well, screw that. I say you’re allowed to grieve for friendship breakups.

Hell you’re more than allowed – I fully encourage it.

Eat ice cream straight out of the tub. Put on your comfiest, grossest pyjamas. Watch The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants twice. Or three (ok, eight) episodes of Friends. Don’t wash your hair. Make a weepy Spotify playlist filled with heart-wobbling songs by Adele and Drake.  Let yourself be sad.

new girl

There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting yourself be sad. I weep at the John Lewis Christmas advert for two months solid, so it makes sense that I weep for the end of my actual, real-life friendships.

But then – then, you need to put your tissues away, paint your nails turquoise blue and get back on the horse. Focus on what the friendship taught you. Maybe this BFF taught you the importance of honesty, or that sometimes you should be kinder than is strictly necessary. Maybe she taught you how to do the macarena backwards.

Whatever it is, looking for those silver linings will help you form stronger friendships in the future.

Of course, you might get back together one day, and your friendship might be stronger because of your time apart. But if you don’t, there are seven billion (this one is an actual number, I promise) other potential friends waiting out there who would be lucky to have you.

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Ah, love. It’s a tricky bastard. Love means a million different things to a million different people, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if what you’re feeling is true love, intense like, a raging crush or just the first twinges of indigestion.

But sometimes, you just know. Shakespeare had his summer’s day, Jane Austen had her country dances… and we have the moment you decide to share your Netflix password. Here are some 2017 signs that you’re probably, definitely, in love.

1. You let them take the stamp for your coffee on their loyalty card.

2. You actually put your phone down when they talk to you.

3. You offer them the last slice of pizza.

4. …then they say, ‘No, you have it.’

5. You agree to see La La Land for a second time, even though musicals make you want to punch things.

6. Even Snapchat knows you’re together and puts two pink hearts next to their name.

7. You can share a tent at a festival in August for a whole four days and still be speaking to them at the end.

8. They let you practice everything you learned from Dr Pimple Popper on their chin.

9. You’ve felt a strange and overwhelming urge to give them your wifi code.

10. There are more strips of adorable photobooth pictures in your purse than actual cards or money.

11. Every meme they tag you in actually makes you laugh, not just like to be polite.

12. You have Instagram notifications turned on for them, even if they’re a six-nearly-identical-blurry-selfies-at-once person. Even then.

13. They are the very first person you WhatsApp “SNOW!!!!! ❄️☃️❄️☃️” to when it snows.

14. And sad faces to when it turns to rain three minutes later.

15. You know their exact Starbucks order, and recite it faithfully even when it’s embarrassingly long.

16. You look at them the way everyone looks at Beyoncé.

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Image: Getty

One of the best heart-to-hearts I ever had as a teenager was in the car park in Moor Park station, waiting for my dad to wend his weary way home from work on the Metropolitan line. It was dark, and neither Mum or I could really make out each other’s facial expressions as we discussed Charlie Laurens and first date etiquette. Mum gave me my first – and best – piece of dating advice: don’t order a salad, and never be the first one to text after a date.

Alas it was too late for my crush, Charlie Laurens; I’d already been there, done the ordering a salad and texting him first post-date thing – and been rejected that morning in two devastating sentences. Hence the mum chat: prior to that I’d handled boy stuff well enough with the help of friends and siblings, but I LOVED Charlie with a love too precious, too DEEP for the common room, and only my mum could help me move on.

She helped me swiftly, and conclusively. She ‘fessed up about her first crush, Richard, and how she still didn’t understand why they weren’t together. FORTY YEARS later. Yet with two marriages, two children and a load of great mates under her own belt, she was pretty confident my life would go on. By the time dad came into land, my wounds were – if not healed, then at least bandaged.

I don’t look back longingly on Charlie Laurens; but I do reflect on that conversation, and how being side by side, looking forward in semi-darkness, enabled me to ‘spit it out’ in a way I’d never managed sat opposite someone over lunch in broad daylight. Since then, I’ve found there are a number of times and places in which real, juicy heart-to-hearts are best conducted. Here, in no particular order are mine:

1. In the car

Whether driving or stationary, the same principle applies here as it did in the car park: you don’t have to face each other. Difficult, awkward or potentially embarrassing messages are easier to deliver when one of you’s in the back, or you’re side by side. No one can storm off if things heat up, and the radio is there to helpfully fill any long silences.

Good for: Deep-and-meaningful conversations (DMCs), problem solving, philosophical debates, confessions

Not so good for: shouting matches, beginner drivers who haven’t yet learnt to talk, listen and drive all at the same time, convos that are best resolved with a hug

2. On the phone

The fact that Donald Drumpf made national news the other day for hanging up on the Australian PM tells you everything you need to know about phone etiquette. If you or your partner in conversation haven’t grasped its basic principles – basically, not slamming the phone down – then this isn’t the place, and you should find another time. If you’re a phone fan, though (retro) this can be perfect. Make sure you’ve got minutes plenty of time, and you’re somewhere quiet, free of distractions. Maybe with snacks.

Good for: DMCs, problem-solving, philosophical debates, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face

Not so good for: phone-phobics, convos that are best resolved with a hug, Donald Drumpf

3. On a walk

Preferably with dog in tow – to give you some focus and/or comical distraction when you reach a conversational mud patch – but not always. I’ve chewed many a cud on a dogless walk, and 99 per cent of the time they end in success. There’s the winning combo of fresh air and exercise boosting your mood and wellbeing; there’s your surroundings to remark over when things get sticky (“ooh look! A bird”); and again, there’s the possibility of directing any awkward or difficult comments to the sky/trees/your feet/some place other than their face.

Good for: shouting matches (no one can hear you scream); DMCs, problem solving, philosophical debates, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face, convos that are best resolved with a hug, Donald Drumpf

Not good for: people who can’t walk easily, rainy days

4. Cooking (or washing up)

There’s nothing like the meditative mindlessness of peeling carrots or washing plates to get the conversational juices going, while at the same time the act of working together toward a shared goal (dinner/clean dishes) offers a safe space where you can discuss everything from TV to online dating, to politics, feminism and – a personal fave – what religion you’d have been brought up in if you could choose.

Good for: DMCs, problem solving, philosophical debates, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face, convos that are best resolved with a (soapy, damp) hug

Not good for: shouting matches. Not with all those sharp objects around.

5. Cup of tea

Needs no justification. It’s tea. It’s the British answer to all the world’s problems. My advice – if it’s particular, tricksy convo that’s called for – is to go out for your cuppa, so you’ve got some neutral territory to really thrash it out in. Put your phone away (right away in your bag, not face down on the table) and get some cake in: sounds ridic I know, but somehow sharing food creates a bond than can weather even the hardest of conversational storms.

Good for: shouting matches; if you’re out, the public nature of the place will force you to keep your voices down, and the cake will keep you together.  

Not good for: awkward confessions. Having tea together generally involves sitting opposite and sharing and if you or the other are embarrassed or awkward it can get a bit intense.

6. In the loos

The tendency of girls to have some of our best bants in the ladies is one that has baffled scientists to this day. Maybe it’s the women-only vibe? Maybe it’s the amount of we time we spend queuing in them. Either way, there is something about weeing, wiping, powdering and hair-fluffing that makes us feel comfortable sharing, not just concealer, lip balm and quality chat, but the deepest secrets of our soul.

Good for: DMCs, problem-solving, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face, convos that are best resolved with a hug and anything to do with relationships

Not good for: philosophical debates. There’s only so long you can spend in the loo before people outside start to be alarmed and send in Immodium.

@finney_clare

Image: Katie Edmunds

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The only thing worse than having a little sister who adores you and constantly copies you, is having a little sister who has recently decided that you’re less cool than a school assembly about litter.

When I was 11, my 10-year-old sister Beth was my one-girl fandom. I’d dread school break times, as she’d rush towards me in the playground and wrap her arms around my waist like a rubber ring – I’d wriggle and struggle, grumbling as she slowed me down and stopped me from finding a dinner lady to complain to. She made up songs, stories and secret worlds, searching out the weirdness in everything, always spotting something magical amongst the small and unseen.

She filled our shared bedroom with ice cream cartons full of snails, which she ‘raced’ across our garden – and she treated her tiny friends with intense tenderness. When I complained about our new roommates and said it was “disgusting” to sleep with snails, she’d say “Shhhh! They can hear you!” She was passionate, she was sincere, and she always wanted to join in.

But I was horrible to her.

I didn’t want her playing with my perfume or reading my magazines, because she was a ‘baby’. I was too busy talking about boys (not to boys, let’s not be crazy) to be bothered about her snails.

Then, as we both headed towards our teens, something shifted. I guess I got what I deserved.

Beth became cooler than me – and suddenly, I became the annoying one. She found new friends. We started listening to different music. While she’d once begged to be involved when I went on about which song was number one, she started bragging about being a fan of alternative bands, and told me that I was pathetic for listening to what was in the charts. She used to say I looked like a princess when I wore a pretty dress. I was “way too girly” and “clearly had no personality or any individuality”.

I would have given anything – the £57 in my Halifax savings account, my best nail polish, the pale pink Topshop aviator jacket I’d spent months saving up for – to get babyish Beth back. I would have taken her to every single party I was invited to, and she could have held onto my waist all night long. But she’d rather wear a dreaded princess party dress in public than be seen with me.

Beth seemed so tough and together that I was stunned when I walked past her room one morning and heard muffled sobs. I thought she said my name. I must have been imagining things. Then she said it again. I gently pushed the door open.

“Don’t tell Mum,” she murmured, and my brain immediately exploded with terrifying thoughts about what might be wrong. “But I’ve started.”

My first reaction was relief that nothing horrible had happened. But when I looked at Beth’s face, I realised that to her, it was horrible. Her body was changing, and it had frightened her.

I’d started my periods over a year ago, and was starting to find the rhythm of my body quite comforting, from the familiar ache in my lower back, a couple of days before I was due, to that feeling of prickly tearfulness that disappeared the moment the period arrived.

“It’s OK.” I held my arms out to her. “At the moment, it feels like nothing in the world will ever be OK again. But this is the worst part, I promise.” She stayed stiff for a second, then hugged me back.

“You really do have to tell Mum, though. She’ll know exactly what to do.”

We weren’t exactly BFFs again – and as we grew up and got older, we became even more different, and even better at antagonising each other.

But from that moment, we were in a conspiracy of two. A slightly awkward tag team who knew exactly how to wind each other up, but who would always share hot water bottles. Even on the occasions when I was barely speaking to Beth, I’d always offer her my last two Nurofen.

Sisters are strange, and even though we’re both grown up, I’ll never stop being thrilled and bewildered by the fact that Beth can be simultaneously so similar and so different from me. When we were on the brink of our teens, those differences seemed like a huge divide. But learning that our bodies worked in the same way, even if our minds didn’t, brought us back together again.

@NotRollergirl

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Image: 10 Things I Hate About You

To tongue or not to tongue? That is the question… 

1. It’s totally going to happen isn’t it? I mean, why else would we both have left the main party (especially when the pizzas are about to arrive) to go for a ‘nice refreshing walk’ around this garden?

2. I mean what are we, 70? What teenager turns down Domino’s in favour of a ‘bit of fresh air’? 

3. And why did we both pick this ridiculously romantic cherry blossom tree to sit under? Eh? Even though this long grass could easily be hiding piles of dog poo. 

4. Actually that IS a worry….

5. WHEVS, I am about to have my first ever kiss! Under a CHERRY BLOSSOM TREE! Am pretty much a Jane Austen character.

6. Not that they ever kiss, actually. So rubbish for them. Bet sometimes all they wanted was to snog each other’s faces off.

7. Well don’t worry, Lizzie Bennett. This one’s for you! And it’s going to be the most romantic-novel-worthy kiss anyone’s ever seen.

8. Oh god, I hope no one sees.

9. Unless I’ve completely got the wrong end of the snog stick and they don’t want to kiss me at all? I mean, maybe we really have come out here to enjoy the air.

10. But then why would we have stopped talking and just been smiling awkwardly at each other for the last three minutes? And why would they be staring at me like that?

11. OH CRAP HAVE I GOT A BOGEY.  

12. Quick check: nope. All clear. And that was mega subtle bogey checking, too. Go me. Nailed it. Figuratively and literally.

13. So if it’s not bogey-related then this silent staring thing is clearly the beginnings of my first. Ever. Kiss. Eeeeeeee!

14. Um…. how does it start exactly? Do I just lean in and close my eyes and pout?

15. But then if they’re not into it I’ll just be left hanging there like some weird unconscious duck. And anyway, why can’t I make the fist move?

16. Nonononononononono I do NOT want to make the first move. What would I even do? Lunge at them? I may not know much about kissing but I know that THAT’S not cool.

17. Mmmm, maybe I could be like, “I’d really like to kiss you right now”…

18. Ugh no.

19. “I really like your lips”?

20. NOPE. You are not a stalker-slash-serial-killer.

21. Uhmmmmm…

22. WAIT! They’re doing the unconscious duck! They’re doing the unconscious duck! How long have they been doing that for?

23. Doesn’t matter! Don’t leave them hanging just KISS THEM you moron!

24. Oh god but what if I get it totally wrong?! What if I miss and kiss their chin or their nose or something? Is that… a thing? A sexy thing?

25. Ok. I’m going in.

26. Eyes open? Eyes closed? Eyes open? Eyes closed?!

27. And do I need to hold my breath, do we think? Can you kiss and breathe at the same time?

28. Better take an extra deep one, just in case.

29. Ok, Ok, they’ve been there for ages now, just go for it. Eyes closed, deep breath and…

30. NOSE CLASH! Noooooo! Kill me now.

31. Oh it’s ok, they’re laughing.

32. Laugh too, you idiot.

33. But now I’ve lost all my air! I am going to suffocate and die kissing! Although, not a bad way to go. In the grand scheme of things.

34. Oooh, they’ve got really soft lips. And they taste of Haribo. WHY did I go for the garlic bread over the Haribo at snack table? WHY?

35. Tbh if they don’t like garlic bread then they’re probably not worth kissing anyway.

36. Do I open my mouth? What if I accidentally drool on them? Or our teeth smash together?

37. Ok, they’re opening theirs. Better give this a go.

38. WOAH there with the tongue! Too much too much too much too- thank you! That’s better. 

40. Much better.

41. What do I do with my hands? Maybe stroke their face? No, that is their eye. You’ve poked them right in the eye. Nice one. 

42. I wonder what this looks like from the outside? I bet we look totally grown up and experienced. I bet they look gorgeous. Maybe I’ll just have a little peek. I mean, I really ought to take a mental picture of the person I had my first kiss with. Just open my eyes a crack. Just to –

43. GAHH! They’re looking right at me. Like a frog.

44. And good, now we’re just staring at each other.

45. This is SO. AWKWARD.

46. And you’re still looking.

47. You’ve been looking at them for basically about 45 minutes by now.

48. SHUT YOUR EYES. SHUT THEM. FOR THE LOVE OF BEYONCE, SHUT. THEM. NOW. 

49. There you go. Just keep kissing. Just keep kissing. It’s all good. 

50. Wow we’ve been kissing for aaaaaagggges now. How long do we need to carry on for it to count as a proper snog? Like, officially? I reckon at least 2 minutes. And I mean we must have done, what, one and a half minutes AT LEAST. Maybe I should do a countdown. 30. 29. 28

51. OK well now you’re just opening and closing your mouth in time with your inner counting.

52. Just enjoooy it.

53. But now I’m all red and spitty and… to be quite honest… my jaw’s getting tired. You know what? I think that’s enough to qualify as a proper first kiss. I’m out. Final peck, pulling away… eyes open.

54. And there we go! My first kiss! Completed! Tick! 

55. I mean it wasn’t great and it was a bit weird and awks. But hey! It wasn’t that bad!

56. And appazza it only gets better with practice. 

57. Practice, they say… Practice…

58. I’m going in again, aren’t I?

59. Yes, yes I am. Pizza can wait.

@LucindaEverett

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I am a champion grudge holder. It’s not something to be proud of, but I hold onto feelings of anger and resentment like vertigo sufferers hold onto the safety bars on rollercoasters.

Years ago, one friend asked me why I’m always a bit chippy and weird with a mutual acquaintance. “Because she got really flirty with your boyfriend in 2006, remember? She tried to snog him!” My friend had forgotten this incident and couldn’t even remember going out with the boy in question. But I stewed, and struggled to forget something that happened 10 years ago – something that didn’t even directly involve me.

So it’s embarrassing, but not surprising, to admit that I only just ‘forgave’ my ex best friend for being mean to me, even though we haven’t spoken since we were taking our GCSEs, over half my lifetime ago.

When I started secondary school, Kirsty* (*not her real name) was one of my new classmates and I desperately wanted to be her friend. She wasn’t one of the loudest girls, and she didn’t brag about how trendy she was – she was just dry and wickedly funny, supplying punchlines and sometimes reducing me to breathless fits of giggles with a raised eyebrow. She had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Friends, a programme that my parents wouldn’t let me watch. She’d actually been to New York with her Mum. She was cool and clever and grown up, and had a perspective on life that seemed different from anyone else’s. Other people were happy to accept what they were told, but she challenged them. She seemed to know that there was life outside sleepy Dorset, and I wanted her to tell me all about it.

Kirsty was immediately commandeered by Charlotte* a girl I knew from primary school, a friend who was good at blowing hot and cold with me, and was confident in her coolness. I became Kirsty’s stand-in BFF – I was the pal version of a supply teacher, and I used to look forward to flu season because I’d get a full week of Kirsty’s undivided attention.

Then, one summer, Kirsty and I started hanging out together all the time. I felt as though I’d won a competition. She’d bitch about Charlotte and I’d join in, thrilled. I’m not proud of how good it made me feel to be ‘promoted’, but when we returned to school in the Autumn, it was just the two of us. Charlotte was out in the cold.

I lasted a term. For a few months, we told each other everything and spent every spare second together, and after Christmas Kirsty started blanking me. “Nothing is wrong! Why are you being weird?” she’d mutter, as I tearfully tailed her down school corridors demanding to know what had happened and what I’d done. It was as if I’d been dumped. I suppose I had.

For months and years afterwards, I thought of Kirsty as the person who had hurt me the hardest, the girl who wronged me, and the person who had seen something so awful and unfixable inside me that she couldn’t bear to be seen with me any more. It’s only now I realise that what happened probably had nothing to do with me at all.

Before the break up, Kirsty had told me about her parents’ divorce, and how she felt that her family was alternately suffocating and abandoning her. She’d gained weight quickly and then lost it even more quickly, and she was suffering from a severe eating disorder. Like me, she was dealing with the difficulties of just being in her teens, surviving school and dealing with the enormous amount of academic pressure that was facing her.

At the time, I think it made sense for me to experience sadness, anger and confusion. I wish I’d known that then, it was just too hard for her to be a good friend to anyone. She needed to draw people close and reject them, because it was a way for her to show she was in control. I don’t think she did it on purpose, and I’m sure she didn’t mean to actively cause me pain.

Hurt people hurt people, and our teenage years are a traumatic time. In some ways we’re at our angriest – we lash out, yet we’re incredibly vulnerable to the sadness and fury of others. Years later, I can finally see that we reject each other for all kinds of reasons, and most of them don’t have anything to do with the person being rejected.

I wish I hadn’t made Kirsty’s pain all about me. But I’ve finally realised that what happened wasn’t my fault, and I think that makes me a better friend now.

@NotRollergirl

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Image: Manjit Thapp

Sooner or later it happens to everyone. And then it happens again and again. One moment you’re sitting there just living life, you think you’re safe, and then someone asks it. Whoomp. The question bomb.

“WHO DO YOU FANCY?”

It’s an awkward question, and not one you always want to answer honestly.

Maybe you fancy the same person as your friend, and you don’t want them to know. Maybe the people asking can’t be trusted with the information. Maybe you don’t fancy anyone in the world right now, but you feel like you’re supposed to because everyone else does so you can’t admit it.

Whatever your reasons for hiding the truth, I am here to help. Here are some lies you can tell to wiggle out of the interrogation.

1. You’re already in a relationship… with someone who goes to a different school

It’s a classic for a reason. You can’t prove it’s true, and no one can prove it isn’t. It’s such an old lie that no one would ever use it in real life – and therein lies its genius. If it’s obviously the kind of lie no one would ever tell, no one will believe you’re really telling it. Boom.

2. Pick a name, any name

Close your eyes and point, and whoever you’re pointing at: that’s your crush. At least, as far as anyone else is concerned. Congrats, randomer over there! The new object of your fake affection. The more unlikely the person, the better – and if anyone comments, you get to take the moral high ground of knowing it doesn’t matter, because none of it is true.

3. It’s top secret classified information

You want to tell them, you really do, but you can’t because the person concerned is secretly a spy. Or you’re a spy. Or you’re both spies on opposite sides, and if anyone knew of your love, it would cause a War of the Spies. You are willing to pine in secret to avoid this, because you are so noble.

4. You have some pretty specific requirements for a potential crush, and you’re not sure anyone you know can fill them

They’ll need to be able to dance. And play the drums. And cook really good lasagne. And surf and do kung fu, and fly a small plane, and shoot lasers from the palms of their hands, and teleport. Why should you settle?

5. You’re saving yourself for Batman

Not Ben Affleck. Not Christian Bale. Not George Clooney or Val Kilmer or Michael Keaton or Adam West. Not Bruce Wayne. Batman. With the flash car, and the concerned and annoyed butler, with the cape, and the mask and the grappling hook. Only Batman will do.

Or Catwoman, obviously, if she’s more your bag.

@j9andlf

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Watching a BFF go through heartbreak is almost as hard as being the one with the broken heart. It sucks, big time. Whether the love she has for a crush turns out to be oh-so-unrequited, or a childhood sweetheart has cruelly cut the cord – she’s going to need you.

Of course, the obligatory two or three days of self-pity are allowed. A tub of Ben & Jerry’s, a Twilight film marathon and a jumbo packet of heavy-duty tissues should do the trick. But then it’s time to spread some positive vibes and help her to see that your friendship is the real romance here.

1. Shout out to my ex playlist

Create a playlist for your pal and get ready to sing, shout or scream out the lyrics together while dancing like electricity is running through you. Leave the soppy ballads out of this and stick to upbeat hits with a strong, independent girl message.

Beyoncé’s greatest hits are a broken-hearted girl’s arsenal. I play them on repeat after every breakup and strut down the street/corridor/supermarket aisle with my headphones plugged in, knowing that Bey’s 100% on my side.

2. Squad, assemble!

It’s time to call in a favour from your mum and organise that sleepover she’s been promising for the last few months. Gather the girls together and ask them to bring along your BFF’s favourite snacks, or all chip in for an obscenely indulgent takeaway.

My personal film recommendation is Legally Blonde. I consider enrolling into law school for at least five minutes after every viewing of this film. Sure, the wardrobe is so dated that each outfit probably causes long-term damage to your eyes. But the story is so great, the positive message is powerful and Reese Witherspoon is peak Reese Witherspoon. Oh, and it’s hilarious!

3. Headline Glastonbury (well, kinda…)

Fact: there is nothing cooler, more liberating and as empowering than being in a band. With heartache comes top material for angsty pop hits, we have Taylor Swift as proof of this. So, dust off your dad’s guitar, tell your friend to put those piano lessons to good use, rope in a drummer and get writing.

There are loads of YouTube tutorials that you can use to learn chords, if you’re finding it tricky. You might just be the next Haim, but even if you’re not, it’s still MEGA FUN.

4. New hobbies, new friends

Meeting new people and trying new things are always a good idea. You and your best pal could enrol for after-school activities such as a sports club, drama school, dance lessons or local volunteering. Most places will offer a taster session so you can give a few activities a try before committing to something together.

Earlier this year I attended a script writing course and a community band class. I was apprehensive before turning up but they turned out to be some the most rewarding and fun evenings of my year. They were nearly as fun as watching 3 GoT episodes back-to-back on a Monday night.

5. Sign out of social media for a while

We’ve all been there, scrolling through an ex’s Instagram feed, holding our breath, hoping our shaky finger doesn’t accidentally hit the like button on the photo he’s just uploaded of a pretty girl. WHO IS SHE? WHERE ARE THEY? HOW DARE HE! Etc.

 

Social media is such a huge part of our lives, and generally it’s fun, positive and even necessary for communication. But after a breakup, we know it’s best left alone for a week or so – yet every single one of us totally ignores this rule despite knowing how much hurt a photo or status can cause us.

If you think you can handle it, tell your friend you’ll support her by going on a digital detox with her for a few days. Or, at least distract her from her phone by doing super cool things together instead.

6. Listen, chat, hug, LOVE

Sometimes, all you can do is be there for your friend, shower them with love, listen at the other end of the phone on a late Tuesday night and keep reminding them how awesome they are. Now is the time to do this, and your pal won’t forget it if your own heart takes a battering in the future.

If she’s really down in the dumps about things, encourage her to talk to one of her family members or the school counsellor. Just be the BFF that you’d want in your time of need, the one that you no doubt already are.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Katie Edmunds

Whether your dream bedroom is pretty and pink like Betty’s in Riverdale, or sleek and chic like Serena’s in Gossip Girl, we’ll bet there’s one thing you definitely don’t want in it – your sister.

But sometimes you don’t have a choice when it comes to sharing a room, and it can be pretty frustrating. No privacy, conflicting sleep schedules and having to live among all their junk does not make for harmonious sisterly love!

Sharing a room is not ideal, but it’s also not impossible. These top tips will help you keep the peace.

1. Remember it’s not forever

First things first, no matter how annoying your sister is and how much you feel like screaming every time you’re in your room together, remember it’s only temporary. One day you’ll have your very own room and you can do what you like with it. You could start a Pinterest board to plan exactly how it’ll look – it’ll give you something to focus on when she starts snoring again or after you’ve tripped over her shoes for the millionth time.

2. Don’t be petty

It might be tempting to literally draw a line down the middle of the room but that just makes things awkward for everyone. Agree that you’re both allowed to move around freely – within reason, of course. Sprawling across her bed because yours is covered in laundry isn’t cool.

3. Schedule some private time

Privacy pretty much goes out the window when you share a bedroom, but it’s important you get some time to yourself occasionally. Try striking a deal for some regular ‘me time’; perhaps she could watch her favourite TV show in the lounge each week, while you could take the dog for a walk on a designated evening?

4. Share and share alike

Set some ground rules for sharing your stuff. It’s probably a bit unreasonable to flat out refuse to lend her any of your clothes, because chances are she’s got something you’ll want to borrow, too. Agree that any borrowing requests must be made with plenty of notice – no sneaky pinching!

5. Keep it clean

Living with a slob is a clean freak’s worst nightmare – but it’s not much fun living with someone who has tantrums over mug coasters, either! Try to keep your mess to a minimum, and schedule some time once or twice a month to give your room a good clean together, so you feel like you’re putting in equal effort.

6. Respect each other’s sleep schedules

Sleep deprivation is horrible, and if you’re not getting to sleep early enough or you’re being woken up too early, you’re going to be tired, cranky and miserable. Decide on ‘quiet hours’ – say 10pm until 7am – where you both make the effort to keep noise to a minimum. Ask your parents to pick up some low wattage light bulbs the next time they do the weekly shop too so you’re not blinding each other if you need the light on in the night.

7. Make your space your own

You’re probably never going to agree on a décor theme, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your stamp on your area of the room, whether that’s draping fairy lights around your headboard or putting a funky rug down beside your bed. There’s loads of shared-room interiors inspo Pinterest to get you started.

8. Get your parents onside

Chances are, your parents aren’t super happy about you having to share a room either, simply because they know it’s going to result in arguments now and then. But at times it’ll feel like they don’t care about your situation – after all, they chose to share a room. But if something is really bothering you and you’ve already tried talking to your sister, speak to your parents about it. Keep a cool head and explain that you’d like their help in sorting out the problem. It’s much harder for them to say no to something if you’re reasonable about it.

9. Remember it’s no fun for them either

It’s easy to focus on how much it sucks for you to have to share a room, but your sister probably isn’t that happy about it either. Next time you’re about to lose your temper with her, take a deep breath and try to remember that you’re probably just as annoying in her eyes. You’re both in this together, which means sometimes just letting things go.

10. Enjoy it

Sharing a room with your sister can be a right pain, but it can also be a lot of fun. You’ve got someone there when you’ve had a bad day, someone to chat with late into the night and someone to have a giggle with 24/7 – you’ll never feel lonely. Make the most of it – you might miss it one day!

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton